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Keeper Friedel quits US team

MIAMI -- Brad Friedel is missing the party, and not just tomorrow's World Cup qualifier in Carnival-crazed Trinidad.

Friedel announced yesterday that he is retiring from the US national team, leaving Kasey Keller as the favorite to be in goal through the 2006 World Cup.

"I would like to spend my time away from my club team with my family," Friedel said during a telephone conference call. "The second reason is based on prolonging my club career, because I have picked up, albeit slight, muscular injuries recently.

"When I was traveling around, I was feeling worn down. I haven't felt worn down in quite some time, and I think a lot of that is attributed to the fact that I'm not flying everywhere and playing in high-level, competitive games."

Friedel beat out Keller for the starting job at the 2002 World Cup, where the United States advanced to the quarterfinals in its best showing since 1930. He played a huge part, stopping penalty kicks against South Korea and Poland.

"Certainly his performance in the 2002 World Cup was a huge factor in our success," said US coach Bruce Arena, who twice tried to talk Friedel out of his decision to retire in the last 8 to 10 weeks.

Now 33, Friedel has played just once for the United States since the World Cup, in an exhibition game at Poland last March 31.

Friedel, who made his national team debut in 1992, played in the last two World Cups and had 24 shutouts in 82 international appearances. The starter for Blackburn in England since the middle of the 2000-2001 season, he was voted the top goalkeeper in the Premier League by fellow players at the end of the 2002-2003 season.

In Cleveland to announce the launch of his soccer academy, Friedel said he wants to extend his contract with Blackburn, which has 18 months left. His success and that of the US team at the 2002 World Cup made his decision easier.

"After the '98 World Cup, I think the world saw us as again a third-world footballing nation," he said. "After the 2002 World Cup, they obviously didn't, and you can see all the talented players going to a lot of very, very good clubs once again."

While Friedel was announcing his retirement, Keller was still trying to meet up with the team.

He played for Borussia Moenchengladbach Sunday night in Germany, and his flight from Duesseldorf to Frankfurt yesterday morning was canceled. He then flew to Zurich, Switzerland, where he caught a plane to Miami to meet up with the rest of the American team, which delayed its charter flight to Port of Spain to await his arrival.

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